Public Speaking is a Risk


Failure is inevitable at some point when it comes to public speaking. For example, did you ever:

  • Forget what you wanted to say?
  • Get lost, or stuck in traffic and arrive too late?
  • Have trouble speaking because you were so nervous?
  • Have the equipment stop working and leave you in the lurch?
  • Get questions from the you couldn’t answer?
  • Lose a speech contest?
  • Getget negative feedback?
  • Get laughed at?
  • Miss out on a sale or business opportunity or contract or job because of a bad presentation?
  • Think that you were not cut out to be a public speaker?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, congratulations. You’re in good company when it comes to failure.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Public speaking is a risk.

Every time we stand up in front of others, we are taking a risk. Things can, and do, go wrong. We can get hurt in the process. Sometimes a little, sometimes more than a little. It’s part of the deal; part of the process; part of the price of admission.

If you’ve never had a bad public speaking experience, chances are you haven’t done much public speaking. If you want to improve, there is only one real way and that is to speak. And if you speak, you will certainly have setbacks. You can’t avoid them forever.

However, the critical part is what you do after the setback. Watch the video again. Imagine what a shame it would have been if the talented people who are featured had given up in the face of their own setbacks.

Public speaking is a risk. Just like life. But if you persevere, the rewards are tremendous.

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  1. Great messages here, John.
    Failure gets a bad rap and we should be embracing it.
    Question to all: “Did you learn more from something you “failed” at or something that went 100% correctly the first time you did it?”
    Of course, you learned more from your “failures.”
    Perhaps it’s a mindset. If we think of things as “experiments” we won’t think of the outcome as a failure. Edison, so the story goes, experimented and successfully found over 9,000 ways the to invent the light bulb that did NOT work. He got closer to the end result each time.
    We don’t expect “experiments” to always give great outcomes.
    Thanks for the reminders of the benefits of risk and failure, John.
    Go BIG or Go Home!

    1. Great comment, Fred. Thanks very much for weighing in on the discussion. Embracing failures and learning from them is a key step along the road to success.

  2. Hi John, love your work. I was in a new city once looking for a flat and a job. At one flat I was told that to have any chance of winning the position i would have to go to a rehearsal of an experimental musical group to their show “Love Trilogy”, since most of the flat were in it.
    I went along and at a break the producer asked me what part I was playing. When I said I wasn’t he made me in charge of the main spotlight and show host as well. So I had to introduce the show, race the ladder to the main spotlight then down again for each act and at half time.
    The pressure must have got to me as I raced down the ladder and was behind the curtain to introduce the next act with not a thing in my head. I didn’t remember what I had to say or for that matter where I was or what was going on. My mind was a complete blank and all I felt was the fear of going beyond that curtain. The time came and someone pushed me out and the words just came out. When the show was over I felt the greatest relief I have ever felt.
    I suppose I just lost it. Oh, no I didn’t get the flat.
    What I gained from this experience is that I have been there, and the experience has made me braver, I didn’t die and life went on.
    Hey John I loved your speeches on youtube; the argument with the wife evaluation, the Arnie one and the Ski one. Have you posted any more since?
    Cheers, Chris

    1. Thanks for the comment, Chris. Great story! Talk about pressure without having been able to prepare! A character-building exercise to be sure.
      Thanks for the comments about the blog and the videos. I’m not sure about the “Ski” video, but I think that you might be referring to the terrific speech by Andy Dooley. I had nothing to do with it but I have watched it several times as it is an excellent example of a humorous speech with a serious message. I have a few other things floating around on YouTube. For a more serious speech, I did one a couple of years back called “Crossing No Man’s Land“. Hope you like it.

  3. “If you want to improve, there is only one real way and that is to speak. And if you speak, you will certainly have setbacks. You can’t avoid them forever.”
    I totally agree with this sentence, I also had stage-fright sometimes, but now I’m finally get over it. 🙂
    BTW I also have a blog on the topic, click my name. 🙂

    1. Many thanks for the comment. Glad that you have overcome your stage-fright. It’s something that we all have to deal with at one time or another. Congratulations as well for your blog. I will be sure to check it out.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International